Today I walked out of a movie theater, having just seen Michael Moore’s SiCKO, with a renewed political and humanistic vigor. It might sound odd, but I had a New Media epiphany shortly after watching that documentary on corrupt American health care. It happened while I was standing in line at Potbelly’s, waiting to order a sandwich. I saw the people around me, without that tense shouldered social anxiety I normally might have felt. I thought about their lives. I picked up my sandwich and I smiled fluently at the cashier.

A man in the film said that putting your life in danger was living, and the rest was television. He was referring of course to putting your own life on the line in hopes of saving another, as with a firefighter. Interesting, I thought. It was then, thinking about that quote while eating my food, that I remembered Walter Benjamin’s concept of the “aura.” Things in the material world have an aura that is lost through duplication. The Mona Lisa has an aura that you can only experience at the Louvre; all photocopies or images on the Internet lack this unique aura. I believe this aura exists and applies to people and social interactions. There is a richness in face-to-face conversation that disappears even in webcam communication. Maybe it’s that third dimension, or the natural lighting, or the smell of hair.

Something, something special in the real world, disappears in the artificial world and can never be fully reproduced. While I must say I am sparkling at the neurons here studying the hyperbolic advancement of social networking and computer technology, I admit that I feel we’re in danger of slighting something even more valuable: real human interaction.

Risking our lives for others is living, and the rest is television. Television as escapism? It’s true, more or less, that we on the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum strive for safety and self-actualization. We have the means, the time and money and spirit, to fulfill our desires. We can spare an hour for YouTube or social networking. We can work towards a new degree of hyper-creativity and expression. But grokking at my heart is an uncertainty. I feel it every time I see the dejected men and women who I know could never spare a buck or an hour to tantalize themselves on the web.

Maybe I’m confusing unrelated issues. But this, fleeting though it may be, is my concern today.